The future was yesterday

This is my second trip to Walt Disney World. The first was in 1981. Back then my dad and I went on the then new Space Mountain—my sister tried it only to bail out at the last minute. The next day, we went to Cape Canaveral and watched the first launch of the shuttle Columbia. 

Now it’s 2016. This time I’m the Dad and it’s my daughter (and the rest of my family) who opted out of Space Mountain. And the space shuttles haven’t flown for years. Columbia itself was destroyed in 2003.

Walking through Space Mountain, the time seems even more out of joint. FastPass is a brilliant innovation: there are no lines, provided you go when you’re told and don’t mind planning months in advance. Disney discriminates in favor of the intentional and the planful—no place for the ADD-afflicted in this kingdom! Once through it mostly seems dark, and even the refreshed interior seems dated. And either I remember more lights inside the actual coaster or I’ve gone blind.

Tomorrowland, the part of Disney World that Space Mountain anchors, doesn’t look much like tomorrow any more. Big parts of it consume a pre-mid century aesthetic of Flash Gordon and Googie California gas stations. But this future never came to be. And the bits that have started to come in around the edges—Monsters Inc?—don’t seem like a future at all.

I don’t know what our future looks like but I don’t think it’s space travel. But when I was a kid that’s all I thought about. What will my kids imagine for their future?

One thought on “The future was yesterday”

  1. I had the same reaction to Tomorrowland. It’s a nostalgic view of the future, frozen in the 80s with a thin coat of modern paint over ideas that Walt himself advanced before his death, and no one felt comfortable updating – sort of a Buck Rogers 50s serials bad movie style. Epcot is even worse at this in some places! You realize that their future hasn’t taken into account the Internet or dot-com style companies that grow and bust in a few years but leave some impact. They don’t really address privacy and security. And the Disney mobile apps that have been created are way ahead of other amusement parks but woefully poor compared to modern apps and consumer expectations for stability, UX, and reliability.

    Don’t get me wrong, we had a blast this Disney visit. But tech guys see where the emperor is naked.

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